CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Last month Jill Cichowicz held a fundraiser in Chesterfield almost a year after her twin brother Scott died from a heroin overdose.
The event was aimed at raising awareness and money to help fight what has become an epidemic.
“Probably the hardest year of my life. It’s been tough, it’s been challenging, it’s been a struggle. But you have to turn the pain into something positive,” said Cichowicz.
Five years ago there were 10 heroin or opioid overdose deaths in Chesterfield. That number has risen every year since and in 2017, it jumped to 39.
The county has created a multi-department committee with members ranging from public safety, to social services to combat the issue. They’ve created public service announcements and flyers to try and educate the public.
“We all know that what we really need to do is to stop the addiction before it ever starts,” said Sarah Snead, Deputy County Administrator for Human Services.
They’ve handed out pouches to help people safely dispose of their medication. They’ve also advertised services addicts can turn to.
“If someone that they know and care for is involved with these drugs, where to go for help,” said Debbie Burcham with Mental Health Support Services.
The committee has requested even more money to fight the problem.
Supervisors will consider increasing funds which the committee would like to use to hire an opioid outreach coordinator in the police department, a re-entry coordinator in the sheriff’s department, a data analyst who can analyze what’s working and what’s not, and continued support for the non-profit Chesterfield Substance Abuse Free Environment (SAFE).
They say while the number of deaths may not come down immediately.
“We believe that over time we will be coming out of this crisis,” said Snead.
The county is also working with other localities in the region on ways to share resources so each city or county is not tackling the problem alone.